After almost a year of travelling Australia, we had seen a lot. A lot of beaches, snorkelling, gorges, waterfalls, outback and red dirt. A lot of hot weather and sea level (and below) activities. As we headed back towards the east coast, we were ready for a bit of a change. Some mountains and rivers, some chill factor and elevation.
Between the Murray River and south-east coast of Victoria is a beautiful pocket of the high country. Well, it’s high for Australia, though European and Canadian visitors may giggle at what we call “high”. You call them mountains?? We sure do, and in their own truly Australian snow-gummy way, they’re amazing.
At the start of our trip around Australia, only a few weeks in and as total amateur boofheads, we had our first taste of the high-ish country, taking our off-road camper trailer through its paces in a 4WD trek along the Upper King River, Victoria. The hubby had convinced me that we needed a break from what I wanted to do most on this trip (visit wineries in the King Valley) and so we tried something he enjoyed. Careening down steep muddy tracks with all our belongings in tow. Eek!
A mere 7kms away from the end of the winery trail, lay a remote campsite, Sandy Flat, in the Alpine National Park. “Seven kilometres, that’s fine”, says me. What the hubby knew, but didn’t tell his risk-averse lawyer wife, was that it was 7kms of rocky, muddy, river crossing-y, 4WD geek heaven. Lawyer hell. The risks! The dangers! The what-ifs! If I had known what we were in for, we would have stuck to prosecco-sipping in the valley for sure.
But that’s why you don’t put the lawyer in charge of adventure time. One kilometre in and I was (almost but not quite) literally sh*tting myself. It was a butt-clenching, bone-jangling, petrifying drive down, and up, steep, muddy and narrow tracks that I would have thought twice about walking down, let alone hauling tonnes of metal and our kids through.
What if we get stuck, what if we start rolling back, what if we fall off the side of the cliff??? The hubby talked me down from the edge (not literally, we were very much still on the edge). This is exactly why we got a tough 4WD and an off-road camper trailer. Deep breaths… take my lawyer hat off. Okay, let’s go.
Discover More: the great Australian road trip
What we got (apart from a guts workout) was a beautiful and peaceful campsite all to ourselves and right by the river. Oh, and some “I told you so’s” from the hubby. We spent a lovely few days swimming, bushwalking, 4WDing, campfire cooking. Worth it.
And so, 11 months later, as we headed back from WA and got closer to that neck of the woods again, not quite so amateur anymore (but sadly still boofheads), we were keen for some more mountain, river and 4WD action. And what better way to get from our week of biking and winery-ing along the Murray River to the beaches of Mallacoota, than cutting across the top of Australia.
Re-stocked with red wine (that should keep us warm right?) we headed into the mountains and stopped at a delightful little town called Bright. We didn’t stop for too long. Bright is oh so tidy and pristine, full of well-dressed and showered people, and shops full of knick-knacks and beautiful clothes. We did not really fit in there, being not at all tidy nor pristine transients who live in a tent on wheels (where knick-knacks are a no-no). So after a quick dunk in the Ovens River, we headed higher up into the mountains where we could be dishevelled to our hearts’ content.
From Bright, we headed to Tawonga. We had been all set for some free camping up at Falls Creek but ended up stopping a few days along the Kiewa River because it was just so bloody beautiful. We Aussies have a knack for some obvious naming, just like red-bellied black snakes, we call it how we see it. Pretty Valley, was pretty, ah, pretty. And Mt Beauty. Well, it was a bit of alright too.
So we set up camp at the Mount Beauty Park and fished and floated down the Kiewa River which flowed right beside our camper trailer, bushwalked along the Mount Beauty Gorge walk, and tackled some 4WD tracks up Mt Bogong, Victoria’s tallest mountain. Ah, so much fresh air and beyond-spectacular scenery.
After Mt Beauty, we headed up to Bogong, Falls Creek and Pretty Valley. Wow. Tell you what, the view from the roof of Australia is worth checking out. Away from everything and everyone. The kids even saw snow for the first time. It was a patch the size of tissue, but hey, in the middle of summer, we’ll take what we can get. And if you zoom in, it looks at least the size of a sleeping bag.
But the forecast was for more snow at that altitude, and it was just a bit too freaky freezing for us beach-accustomed wusses who had loads of red wine, but no thermals. So as pretty as Pretty Valley was, we headed down for some slightly less chilly chill time at a hidden gem out of Omeo.
The Bogong-High Plains Way (also known as the Alpine Way) claims to be one of Australia’s most spectacular drives. And after having racked up 48,000kms of driving around this country in the last year, I can say that claim is absolutely true. The drive down was windy, steep, and incredible. Though recently sealed, it would have been a bit easier to hurl down the mountain on skis, than haul our tonnes of metal down the Alpine Way. We definitely had to stop a few times to cool down our hard working brakes. But the slow going made it all the better for view gazing.
We ended our high country adventures at the Jokers Flat free camp, perched beside (yet another aptly named) Big River, outside of the old gold mining town of Omeo. For more (and I know, I sound like a broken record) fishing, swimming, bushwalking and campfire-roasty goodness. Simple, but camping at its finest.
Seriously, get up there (with thermals!) If a wimpy lawyer can hack it (and love it), anyone can.
We have a lot more of the high country to visit, once we get ourselves some woollies. In forging our own scenic path from the Murray to Mallacoota, we didn’t get to see the probably better known Great Alpine Road, Ned Kelly and Man from Snowy River country. But rather than suffering from crippling FOMO (which I was prone to do at the start of the trip, every time we turned left and missed out on what was to the right), I now see missed paths as opportunities for more adventures.
One of the best things about this trip is, as we build up a list of places we have seen, we are also finding out about places to visit next time. And in a country this big, we have a whole lot of next times to look forward to.
Check out more adventures from Jaclyn and her family on her blog.